Former prosecutor sues Netflix, claiming series portrayed her as 'mastermind behind a racist plot'
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Former prosecutor Linda Fairstein, who ran the Manhattan District Attorney’s sex crimes office in the 1980s and early 90s, sued Netflix on Wednesday over her depiction in its 2019 miniseries “When They See Us.”

The acclaimed series dramatizes the “Central Park Five” case, in which Fairstein oversaw the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of five black and Latino teenagers for the brutal rape and assault of a jogger in the park in 1989. All five had their convictions vacated after serving full sentences due to DNA exoneration and a confession by the perpetrator. They settled with the city for $41 million in 2014.

In the lawsuit, Fairstein accuses the streaming service of depicting her as the “mastermind behind a racist plot,” claiming the scenes depicting her are “complete fabrications and readily contradicted by evidence in the public record,” Reuters reported. Her character in the miniseries is played by Felicity Huffman.


Fairstein, who became a crime novelist after leaving the district attorney’s office, is seeking damages from Netflix as well as director Ava DuVernay and writer Attica Locke, a fellow crime novelist who previously called on the Mystery Writers of America to revoke an honor for Fairstein in 2018.

“Ms. Fairstein has initiated a legal action against Netflix, Ms. Ava DuVernay and Ms. Attica Locke, alleging among other things that the Netflix series When They See Us portrays Ms. Fairstein in a false and defamatory matter in nearly every scene in the three episodes in which her character appears," Andrew Miltenberg, counsel for Fairstein, told The Hill in a statement.

"Most glaringly, the film series falsely portrays Ms. Fairstein as in charge of the investigation and prosecution of the case against The Five, including the development of the prosecution’s theory of the case. In truth, and as detailed in the lawsuit, Ms. Fairstein was responsible for neither aspect of the case," he added.

“Linda Fairstein’s frivolous lawsuit is without merit. We intend to vigorously defend ‘When They See Us’ and Ava DuVernay and Attica Locke, the incredible team behind the series,” Netflix told Reuters in a statement.

Last year, after the release of the miniseries, Fairstein resigned from several boards, including Vassar College and the Joyful Heart Foundation, a nonprofit founded by “Law & Order: SVU” actress Mariska Hargitay that provides services to domestic abuse and sexual assault survivors.

Updated at 3:08 p.m.